UFC middleweight Cung Le is an action-film star who has a featured role alongside Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu in a movie released earlier this month called, "The Man with the Iron Fists."
And on Saturday in the main event of the UFC's first card on Chinese soil, Le fought like a guy with an iron fist.
The former Strikeforce champion countered a kick from Rich Franklin, landing an overhand right to the cheek that sent Franklin tumbling face first to the canvas and knocked him out cold.
Le didn't have to do another thing as referee Marc Godard dove in to stop it at 2:17 of the first round.
"I'm just grateful," Le said in the cage at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China, after one of the most dramatic knockouts of the year. "I don't know what to say. Lucky punch."
Franklin was an overwhelming favorite, in part because there was plenty of questions about the health of Le's right foot. He suffered a significant bone bruise during a win over Patrick Cote at UFC 148 in July and suggested that he would be at only 70 percent of full health when he faced Franklin.
He endured the unusual procedure of bloodletting for weeks prior to the fight, having about 50 holes poked into his foot. Blood was then withdrawn from the area in an effort to promote healing.
Le depends on his kicks, and without the ability to kick hard and often against a high-level opponent such as Franklin, he seemed outmatched.
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Franklin was kicking at Le, a frequent tactic fighters use when facing an opponent known for kicks.
The ex-UFC middleweight champion tried one too many, though, and it cost him in a big way.
Franklin whipped a kick with his left leg that hit Le above the knee. Franklin drew back his right hand as if he were going to fire it at Le, but Le came with his own right. Le's was quicker and landed on the button.
Franklin was out as soon as he was hit and did a face-first fall to the canvas.
"He was loading up and looking for me to kick [so he could] attack me with punches," Le said. "I came in, I waited for him to punch and I came in with the overhand right and caught him. Thank you, Lord."
Thiago Silva was nearly knocked out in similar fashion by Stanislav Nedkov when he took a Nedkov right to the head in the second round. Silva collapsed in a heap, but managed to survive.
That was the bad news for the previously unbeaten Nedkov, who seemed to lose his conditioning in the third round. Silva took advantage and submitted him with an arm triangle at 1:45.
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Dong Hyun Kim might have been the most impressive fighter of the night. He out-grappled Paulo Thiago for all five minutes of all three rounds and won a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27 twice and 30-26.
Takanori Gomi won a split decision over Mac Danzig in a back-and-forth lightweight fight. Judges had it 29-28 twice for Gomi and 29-28 for Danzig.
In an impressive overall effort from both men, Jon Tuck was a little better than Tiequan Zhang in all areas and pulled out a unanimous decision. Judges had it 29-28 twice and 30-27.
The first round was back-and-forth with each trading submission attempts. But Tuck nearly forced Zhang to tap late in the first with a rear naked. They traded blows in the second, but Tuck again was close to landing a rear naked choke.
In the opener of the show, broadcast in the U.S. on Fuel TV, Takeya Mizugaki was dominant, out-striking Jeff Hougland on the feet and on the ground en route to a wide unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27 twice and 30-25.
Winners on the preliminary card were Alex Caceres by split decision over Motonobu Tezuka (30-27 twice, 28-29); John Lineker by unanimous decision over Yasuhiro Urushitani (29-28 twice and 30-27), and Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision over Tom DeBlass (29-28 twice and 30-27).
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